The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Rodger Nichols
For The Sentinel 

Frustrated commissioners vote to extend marijuana moratorium

 


Lacking a recommendation from the Planning Commission, Klickitat County Commissioners voted to extend a moratorium on any new marijuana producers, processors or retailers in Klickitat Couny at their April 14 meeting, but not until they had heard testimony of 21 people at a public hearing.

County Planning Directory Curt Dreyer described some of the issues under consideration by the Planning Commission: whether marijuana production and processing should be considered as agriculture and allowed as such; considered a new type of use with amendments to the county code; considered a home occupation and allowed outright in zones allowing home occupations; allowed as a conditional use in all the zoning districts; whether neighbors of a proposed marijuana facility should be provided notice.

“They’ve had two meetings so far and haven’t made substantial progress,” Dreyer told commissioners. “The staff is recommending you extend the moratorium for another six months to allow the board to complete their work.”

Speakers were sharply divided on the merits of an extension. Most of the faces were familiar, as were the arguments repeated at previous hearings for both the city and the county:

“If it’s legally regulated, the county prosecutor can find out where it came from if it ends up in the wrong hands. All you’re doing with the moratorium is encouraging the black market”—Ian Nicholson

“We got screwed by the white man years ago taking our land. Now we got a bunch of people coming into this county trying to make money and say that ain’t going to bother anybody. It bothers me. They thought they’d make an easy buck in this county. I’m all for runnin’ them out.”—Cliff Gregg

“You’ve had literally years to figure this out. What’s the holdup? If I did my job that way, I’d be fired.”—Tina Anderson

“I and many parents still consider marijuana a gateway drug, and it’s still illegal to smoke marijuana in the United States of America. We’re a rogue state.”—Ruth Faulkner

Lance Beckman told a story in gruesome detail about a nephew who felt he was invulnerable after smoking marijuana, stuck a shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger. That drew sympathetic comments from marijuana proponents who doubted that marijuana was the cause

Two commissioners expressed disappointment with the lack of recommendations from the Planning Commission.

“We need to make a decision and we still have no answers,” said Commissioner Dave Sauter. “We had concerns or we wouldn’t have done it [the moratorium] in the first place, and I’m not interested in extending the moratorium without getting those questions answered. Doing nothing is a de facto decision. You are basically banning it is what you’re trying to do. That’s not what we charged them to do. That drew mild pushback from Planning Director Curt Dreyer. He noted that the Commission hadn’t adopted findings and sent the request to the Planning Commission for two months. “Then we got into December,” he said. “That’s when the holidays are and we couldn’t get a quorum together. January we did meet and met with Bob Songer, had some questions for law enforcement. In February we didn’t have a quorum. Then in the following month in March we did meet with the prosecutor. So they’ve only been able to meet twice.”

He noted that Planning Commission members are all volunteers and meet once a month and that they tried to form a subcommittee to speed things along, but there is a vacancy on the commission and one person said they would be recusing himself from all discussions,

Dryer replied that when the Planning Commission first started discussing this, there was a consensus to just propose a ban, have hearings on the east side of the county and the west side on the ban and bring the results as a recommendation to the board

“The problem I have with that is they’re making a policy decision,” said Commissioner Sauter. “That’s not what they’re charged with. We make policy decisions. With all due respect to the planning commission, that decision rests with this board.”

In the end, Sauter said he felt as if he really had no choice but to extend the moratorium, and moved to do so. The motion passed unanimously.

 

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